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A Word on Pesticides

05/09/2013

Hello, dears! After somewhat thoroughly exploring the vast subject of best and worst foods to eat, I thought to myself: how many times have I written the word pesticides? All of those foods are named good or bad, recommended to be avoided or, on the contrary, preferred, because of the pesticides. We keep repeating the term, but never actually investigated it further to see what it stands for. Yes, it is common knowledge that pesticides are some evil chemicals, harmful to our bodies and nature, but what exactly are they? So today is the day, read along The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has defined pesticide as: any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying or controlling any pest, including vectors of human or animal disease, unwanted species of plants or animals causing harm during or otherwise interfering with the production, processing, storage, transport or marketing of food, agricultural commodities, wood and wood products or animal feedstuffs, or substances which may be administered to animals for the control of insects, arachnids or other pests in or on their bodies. The term includes substances intended for use as a plant growth regulator, defoliant, desiccant or agent for thinning fruit or preventing the premature fall of fruit. Also used as substances applied to crops either before or after harvest to protect the commodity from deterioration during storage and transport.

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The use of pesticides is so common that the term pesticide is often treated as synonymous with plant protection product, although it is in fact a broader term, as pesticides are also used for non-agricultural purposes. Target pests can include insects, plant pathogens, weeds, mollusks, birds, mammals, fish, nematodes (roundworms), and microbes that destroy property, cause nuisance, spread disease or are vectors for disease. The benefits to the use of pesticides are many, but what we are concerned about are the even more drawbacks. Pesticide exposure can cause a variety of adverse health effects, ranging from simple irritation of the skin and eyes to more severe effects such as affecting the nervous system, mimicking hormones causing reproductive problems, and also causing cancer And the effect on our environment: over 98% of sprayed insecticides and 95% of herbicides reach a destination other than their target species, including non-target species, air, water and soil. In addition, pesticide use reduces biodiversity, reduces nitrogen fixation,contributes to pollinator decline, destroys habitat (especially for birds),and threatens endangered species.

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The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) says: “We believe that pesticides are a public health problem requiring public engagement to solve.” And we couldn`t agree more. What could this public action be? Well, for one, sharing all the information you can get your hands on – which foods are clean and safe and which are contaminated and harmful; locations of farmers` markets; volunteer actions in nearby small farms who really need help to survive and continue providing you with good food; details on collaboration collectives and newly formed food groups; online stores offering produce from small farms in your region… and so, so much more. But the most important is leading by example and in this context it means not only sharing the above mentioned info, but in the first place acting on it. Buying from those farms, helping them yourself, ordering from those farm sites and always, always remembering every little helps. Stay tuned for next week`s article in which I will further explore the harmful effects pesticides have on our health and nature.